When R.T. Rybak brought Bill McManus to town to head the MPD, both men talked big about reforming the troubled department. But when the chief ran into political resistance, some say, the mayor blinked. Now their relationship has hit the skids, and the fut

When it came to hitting the streets and building ties to the communities who had been the loudest critics of the MPD, McManus proved as popular as advertised. According to some, this was a problem in Rybak's eyes. They point to instances in which McManus arrived at a crime scene and gave interviews or held impromptu press conferences that purportedly angered Rybak. "The mayor thinks the chief gets too much face time on camera," in the succinct words of one City Hall source. Rybak himself allows that there's "always a balance to how visible [a chief should] be; there is no perfect balance."

The department was also under severe budgetary strain—in one of McManus's early addresses to the City Council, at a June 2004 budget hearing, the chief claimed that his department was underfunded by $12.5 million and that by 2008 the MPD could have as few as 640 officers, the lowest level since the 1960s—and that meant any new policing measures McManus wanted to launch would involve tradeoffs that might prove unpopular elsewhere. When McManus initiated a program called STOP to increase the patrols in select north and south Minneapolis neighborhoods, for example, it helped spell the effective end of police-neighborhood liaison programs that had grown popular in more well-to-do parts of town.

Changes like this provoked some discontent in the chain-of-lakes neighborhoods where the mayor's most important supporters reside, and may have ratcheted up the tensions between McManus and Rybak. According to many, Rybak became much more involved in trying to dictate policing strategies. "The trouble with that council and the mayor is that [they're] dealing with very parochial issues," notes one cop. "And suddenly public policy is overriding any [sensible] police issues."

Adds police union leader John Delmonico, who has come around to supporting McManus during the chief's two-year tenure: "The budget gave McManus a big plate of shit, and they wanted him to make an apple pie out of it."

Any tensions between the mayor and the chief were kept mostly private until the 2005 mayoral campaign rolled around. Then observers began to notice the chief's conspicuous absence from his patron's campaign. Given the flurry of public-safety rhetoric that challenger Peter McLaughlin was heaving Rybak's way, McManus's silence seemed to speak pretty loudly.

Here again, McManus and Rybak both deny any split: McManus simply says that to campaign for the mayor's reelection is "not the chief's job," and Rybak claims he never presumed to invite the chief along with him on the hustings. But there are others who say that's just not true. "The mayor stood up to him and said, 'You need to be campaigning for me,'" claims Ian Bethel. "He thought the chief's rhetoric could suit his campaign needs." Bethel further alleges that part of the rub was that McManus was typically asked to go along on visits to communities of color, but not events in more affluent settings. In the words of one prominent member of the MPD, "Rybak wanted to carry the chief around like the way Paris Hilton carries around her dog."

The seeming bottom line for many observers of the situation is that Rybak lacks either the stomach or the political skill to follow through on his promise to reform the MPD beyond window-dressing measures. "Rybak is eager to sugarcoat this idea of reform," says Deep Blue. "The mayor speaks to broader communities, like Kenwood, when he talks about what he wants to do to the city. The [recent MPD] hires reflect the bigger picture: the mayor's vision of what a police department should look like. But the reality is, he doesn't want to get involved in real police work—it's too gruesome, too gritty, and too messy for him."


Some of the people who have dealt with both men trace the troubles between them to differences of background and temperament. Rybak is a quintessentially Minneapolis figure. He grew up in the city, and his parents ran a drugstore on Franklin Avenue, as he never grows tired of recalling. He began his career as a City Hall reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune, but his subsequent pursuits have frequently revolved around marketing, PR, and promotions. Before becoming mayor, Rybak applied those skills as a dedicated beater of various civic drums, including a stint as the development director of Minneapolis's Downtown Council. Rybak's exploits also won him a lingering reputation as someone who excelled at selling big-picture plans, if not necessarily at executing the details. "He's an inch deep and a mile wide," council member Lisa Goodman cracked during the mayor's first months in office.

But behind the scenes, Rybak has earned a reputation as someone with a temper, prone to making measured and gracious public pronouncements while throwing fits in private. As a marketing guy, Rybak clearly recognizes the importance of synchronizing "message": One of the hallmarks of his first term was his attempt to centralize all city communications into one department, so that department heads couldn't address the media without going though his public information officer first.

McManus, by contrast, grew up in the streets of Philadelphia, and later graduated from Villanova University, where he played on the football team. He rose through the ranks of the Washington, D.C., police department to the position of assistant chief, which he parlayed into the top cop's job in Dayton in 2001. When he arrived in Minneapolis two years ago, much was made of his love of hip hop and his marriage to a Latina woman.

« Previous Page
Next Page »